A Customer Review of DVD Volume 1

Introducing the Rim Lathe

Dear Banjomakers:

On a lark, I purchased a DVD via eBay auction from Mr. Mark Hickler, the keeper of the informative and lavishly illustrated azbanjo website. The DVD focused on Mr. Hickler's inventive assembly of a lathe designed to finish either steamed or blocked rim forms. He ingeniously configured two moveable cross slides that accommodate cutting tools for shaping the exterior and the interior in modest increments, and with an accuracy and control not generally possible on ordinary wood lathes.

He devised an indexing jig for situating bracket shoe holes, and a means of shaping the seating arrangement for a brass tone ring. He has come up with a variety of measurement strategies to help guide the enterprise of turning a rim, and on the DVD offers precise directions for assembling this contraption from off-the-shelf parts and putting it to use in shaping fine rims. Mr. Hickler's website features some of his artful rims, and his well constructed banjos. The diagrams of some of the processes he seeks to illustrate on his website are clear and accessible, and when contacted he is remarkably well disposed to sharing his insights into how to solve banjo making problems.

Mr. Hickler strikes me as one of those rare creatures who combine an inventive streak with a refined artistic sensibility, a draftsman's capacity to diagram and an engineer's ability to innovate and resolve mechanical problems. He has hinted at the possibility of more DVD's aimed at teaching his approaches, including neck/rim joinery. I'd gladly buy any of his planned DVDs.

I recommend the one I spotted on eBay. It is distinguished by great clarity in its narrative, and spot on shots that show exactly what he's talking about. I'd put it up there with the few shows I've seen on banjo making including the famed Thornburg video, the Dave Ball DYI series discussed in these pages some while ago, and the classic Woodwrights Shop episode about George Wunderlich.

Lew Stern

Chief Surgeon
Little Bear Banjo Hospital
Arlington, VA